Athletes with hearing impairment do not need any extra equipment while playing sports, according to Yakup Ümit Kihtir, the head Turkish Sports Federation of People with Hearing Impaired (TIESF).
"While playing sports, we are no different from people who can hear, all the equipment is the same, we are equal," he said.
Speaking on the occasion of the International Day of Sign Languages, Kihtir said sports provide deaf people with many opportunities to improve themselves and their knowledge as well as meet new people.
"Being deaf in Turkey means being part of a community that covers only 1% of the entire population," he said, adding, "Although we are small in number, we can come together and know each other at events."
"We face many obstacles in life. For example, a deaf individual cannot communicate without an interpreter, but while playing sports, there is no need for an interpreter. We all speak the same language," he continued.
Kihtir said there is a huge support for regular athletes but those with hearing impairment are not equally treated.
"There are many achievements by deaf athletes, but we cannot announce them ourselves. We play the same sport, we follow the same rules," Kihtir said, adding that there are many successful deaf professional athletes in sports, including football, basketball, volleyball and even bowling.
He went on to say that deaf athletes can also compete alongside regular athletes; such is the case with Yasin Süzen, a sprinter who came in first at the Deaflympics 2017, organized in Turkey's Black Sea province of Samsun.
"He was later transferred to the Athletics Federation due to his success," added Kihtir.
A total of 3,148 athletes from 97 countries attended the 23rd Deaflympics in Samsun in June 2017. Turkish athletes won 27 gold, seven silver and 26 bronze medals at the event.
Kihtir said he started his professional career as a national swimmer.
"When I became head of the federation, I could see the deficiencies better and understand athletes better," he explained. "The athletes agreed with the instructors on technical issues and contacted me about personal issues. Thus, we started to use more interpreters at the events." Kihtir also advises everyone to learn sign language as part of being a "good and conscientious person."
"I see interpreters at state institutions, lawyers' offices or in a notary, but does the translator accurately translate what I say? If someone knows sign language in such places, then I will have more accurate information because that person is a professional in their field. Therefore, everyone should learn this sign language," Kihtir said.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.
Sign languages are fully-fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from the spoken languages, according to the U.N.
The U.N. General Assembly has proclaimed Sept. 23 as the International Day of Sign Languages to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.
The first International Day of Sign Languages was celebrated in 2018 with the slogan, "With Sign Language, Everyone is Included."
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